Vernon-North Okanagan RCMP Supt. Shawna Baher (from left), Annette Sharkey of the Social Planning Council of North Okanagan, Emelia Gazsity, Interior Health substance use and mental health clinician and IH chief medical officer Dr. Karin Goodison display naloxone kits and app training material that will be vital components of a year-long pilot project in Vernon. (Roger Knox/Morning Star)

Vernon site of RCMP naloxone test project

Free kits, training to be provided to high-risk individuals who spend time in cell blocks

Vernon’s RCMP superintendent knows naloxone saves lives. In fact, said Shawna Baher in a presentation to Vernon council Monday, naloxone has saved more than 500 lives during the current provincial opioid crisis.

Naloxone is a narcotic analgesic antagonist used in the reversal of acute narcotic respiratory depression and is the focus behind a one-year Vernon pilot project.

The Provincial Opioid Emergency Response Centre has chosen three pilot sites in B.C. in an effort to support individuals at high-risk to overdose who find themselves involved with police.

Abbotsford Police Department will run a peer network; Vancouver Police Department will look at a referral process; and the Vernon-North Okanagan RCMP — the only RCMP outfit selected – will look at handing out naloxone kits and providing naloxone training.

RELATED: VIDEO: How to use naloxone to stop a fentanyl overdose

“This is about life and saving people,” said Baher, who said the Vernon-North Okanagan RCMP cell block — which is just north of city hall in Spirit Square — held 1,858 prisoners this year, up 18.85 per cent from 2017, and, said Baher and the numbers are going up.

“People brought into our cells will sometimes have withdrawals in custody, and they’re at risk of a hard withdrawal, which requires police officers to take them to hospital to be stabilized, stay there and return them to custody,” she said. “When they’re released from custody, now they’re craving drugs so they use drugs right away and that puts them at risk of an overdose or committing a crime to feed that overdose.”

In a two-year period from September 2016 to September of this year, Vernon-North Okanagan RCMP members attended to 39 people who died of an opioid overdose. The number only includes the calls that police attended. Of those 39, 23 had spent time in a cell block.

The year-long pilot project will be broken into two phases. The first supports individuals living a high-risk lifestyle or at a high-risk to overdose by increasing the knowledge of persons being released from cells that have a high-risk lifestyle by providing training on steps for intervening in a drug overdose and using naloxone.

A free naloxone kit would then be given to those trained individuals on release from custody. They would also get current referral information available in the community.

The RCMP will also be able to use a video/app to provide naloxone training, its and referral information to other individuals associated with persons living a high-risk lifestyle, such as family members.

Phase 2 would be the introduction of Opioid Agonist Treatment while in custody.

“If the program is successful here, we can roll it out to other communities,” said Baher, referring to Armstrong and Enderby detachments which also have cell blocks. The naloxone kits are provided by Interior Health and the B.C. Centre for Disease Control at no cost to the city.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

No active confirmed COVID-19 cases in Interior Health: BCCDC

Numbers from the BCCDC’s dashboard show 193 of the 195 COVID-19 cases in the region have recovered

Injured equestrian rescued in North Okanagan

The Vernon Search and Rescue Group Society assisted in the Wednesday evening rescue

Limited summer camps fill up fast in Vernon

Some options for kids opened up by Greater Vernon Recreation Services

Vernon player to battle for North Stars

Kevin-Thomas Walters leaves North Okanagan Knights for Junior A team in Saskatchewan

Morning Start: Before Rosa Parks, there was Claudette Colvin

Your morning start for Thursday, June 4, 2020

22 new COVID-19 test-positives, one death following days of low case counts in B.C.

Health officials urged British Columbians to ‘stand together while staying apart’

COLUMN: Efforts preserve and promote local agriculture

Farming will remain an important element in the region

Federal aid for care home systems needed ahead of second wave, advocates say

Ontario Long Term Care Association calling for more action

B.C. woman, 26, fatally shot by police in Edmundston, N.B.

Police were conducting a well-being check at the time of the incident

Horgan calls for national anti-racism program; will pitch idea to PM, premiers

Premier John Horgan said he’s horrified by the death of George Floyd in the United States

Chilliwack dad rescues two young daughters after truck plunges into lake

“I used every single one of my angels that day,” said Dennis Saulnier

Police watchdog investigating fatal crash in Kelowna

Kelowna RCMP received a report of a single-vehicle collision on Bulman Road near Highway 97 on June 1

Kelowna council greenlights ‘The Wedge’

The wedge-shaped building will be built at the corner of Leon Avenue and Water Street

Most Read